Editorial: Why Feed Me shouldn’t stop DJing, and neither should you
A few days ago, Feed Me took to Twitter to express his growing discontent with DJing and his intentions to throw in the towel come the fall. The social media response was instantaneous — fans inundated his pages with heartfelt messages and exasperating pleas to reconsider his decision. Feed Me’s reasons were respectable: wanting more time to produce, design, and work creatively. All would have been fine and I wouldn’t be sitting here musing and meandering if Feed Me hadn’t left off with a final, sweeping declaration in regards to DJing: “It’s a fun and enriching social experience but not art.”
To me, Feed Me’s words touched on a much bigger, disheartening theme. When deadmau5 wrote his ubiquitous “we all hit play” editorial nearly a year ago, it was as if the curtains were drawn on the Wizard of Oz, revealing the DJ to be nothing more than a glorified illusionist. And while there may be a great deal of exaggerated showmanship in the industry, it feels as though this sobering “truth” has not only reaffirmed the cynics, but even bogged down the scene’s deepest romantics.
When Feed Me announced his decision to take a break from DJing, it was as if the scene had lost one of these treasured romantics. Jon Gooch has not only crafted his own sound with his Feed Me project, he’s created an entire mythology behind it, from the grinning, imp-like character — the personification of Feed Me’s music – to the giant, illuminated teeth of his live setup.
Thus, it was as if this nagging pessimism, this overarching and debilitating disenchantment, had finally conquered one of the greats…and to me, that was a bit hard to stomach. Because I am a firm believer in the craft of DJing. I believe in the art of mixing and I believe in the power of the DJ to cater a transcendent experience.
Here’s how I look at it:
As a DJ, you’re given 45 minutes, one hour, two hours of blank silence: an empty auditory canvas of which you are to fill with 10, 20, or 30 different songs of your choosing. How you mix these songs, how you present their whispering tendrils of synths and recursive outros of pulsating kicks is completely up to you. The tempo of dance, whether a steady 128 beats per minute, a comfortable 120, or a wavering, hold-your-breath-until-the-next-snare 140, is dictated entirely by you. The troughs and peaks of the hour are at your disposal, as you construct paramount surges of intensity and deliberate moments of conscious silence and serenity.
The crowd may not always know what you’re doing. Hell, more times than not, they probably have no idea. They may think you’ve blended two songs together when you haven’t, or recreated a song on a spot. But at the same time, they’re just as likely to overlook a cleanly timed drop hop, indefectible mix, or deftly placed sample.
And while it seems as though everyone and their mother is a DJ these days, it’s worth mentioning the difference between a mediocre DJ and a masterful one. The contrast is strikingly evident. You feel it as soon as the DJ takes the decks. You feel it with every transition. It’s the difference between a conspicuous, high-pass filter over 8-bars and the sudden, perfect emergence of a new, seamless beat. It’s the difference between a lingering outro and an intentional loop. It’s the ability to mislead you, intrigue you, and surprise you at every turn.
There’s a specific feeling you get when you enter a good DJ’s domain. It’s the feeling of comfortable anticipation during a Carl Cox set. It’s the feeling of reverential awe during a Pryda set, or the feeling of mutual encouragement during an Armin van Buuren set.
In the case of Feed Me, it’s the feeling of spiritual release. There’s a sense of deep anguish mixed with exhilarated empowerment in tracks like “Strange Behavior,” “Embers” and “Cloudburn.” It’s the kind of feeling that is poignantly amplified in a live setting. By mixing almost exclusively his own productions, Feed Me’s live performances allow his tracks to communicate with each other. It’s the rapturous interactions between timeless pieces like “Relocation” and vigorous tracks like “Blood Red” that breathe life into the fiction, absorbing the listener in Feed Me’s curious and entrancing big adventure.
And isn’t that what it’s all about? Losing yourself to the otherworldly soundscapes of a trained orchestrator? A DJ set may not always be art, but when executed with precision, imagination, and, in the best cases, spiritual fervor, it has the power to create an inexplicable, ephemeral beauty. The fleeting dance of an arpeggio or drowning tail of a reverb won’t last — eventually the lights will come up and the people will leave. But the impression will be there, in the minds of the listeners, for as long as they choose to hold it dear.
Jon, your decision to stop DJing is your own, and the music world will quietly await your return to the stage. This was not a last ditch plea, but simply an ode to a disenchanted artist from a fellow uncompromising romantic.